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The basics about cleaning up after major water damage

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

What’s the worst thing that can happen to you during a monsoon storm? How about a flood in your house? Actually, a watery mess caused by leaky pipes or appliances can be just about as bad as a monsoon.

If flooding should happen to you, you will probably need help from professional restoration and cleanup specialists. You also need to call your insurance company early on to find out whether you are covered for damage. You may also need expert help later to determine whether you have mold problems following a flood.

A few suggestions for dealing with sudden flooding in your home:

– Turn off all circuit breakers for wet areas of the house if you can access the power distribution panel safely.

– Once the water recedes, mop up and blot as much water as you can.

– Remove furniture or valuables to a safe dry place. If you can’t move furniture, place aluminum foil or wooden blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting.

– Hang draperies on coat hangers to avoid contact with wet floors.

– Remove and prop up wet cushions for even drying.

– Don’t enter rooms with standing water where electrical shock hazards may be possible.

– Don’t leave books, newspapers, magazines or other colored items on wet carpets or floors where they may cause staining.

Here are five general issues you need to know about who pays for fixing sudden water damage:

1 – If you haven’t maintained your plumbing properly, the insurance company may not pay up. For example, if you had a longtime leak in your pipes that you ignored for years and that subsequently led to mold and other damage, the insurance company might refuse to pay.

2 –Insurance will pay to fix flood damage caused by a major problem with a dishwasher, for example. The cause has to be accidental, however. And your insurance will not pay to repair the dishwasher or whatever other appliance caused the accident.

3 — When a big storm with rain, wind or hail damages your roof, your insurance company will probably pay. In a case like that, don’t wait for the insurance adjuster to visit and give you a decision. Cover the roof with plastic as a temporary fix and start mopping up water inside the house.

4 – But if a monsoon or other storm flood sweeps through your area and causes water or mud damage, you will not be covered if you don’t have special insurance coverage. You can get this coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program via your insurance agent. In fact, you were probably notified about this when you bought your house. It’s hard to get a home loan without buying this insurance if you live in a potential flood zone.

5 – If you have a sewage backup into your home from your pipes, it is usually not covered. This would also be true if tree roots invaded your plumbing. You can purchase insurance to help cover this situation.

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